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The Selfishness of Selflessness

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posted on Mar, 28 2009 @ 11:35 PM
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reply to post by Welfhard
 


Well, its not your fault, I wouldnt blame your thinking.

This kind of information isnt common knowledge. You have to go looking for it, or stumble on it. (I worked in a bookstore for a while when I was in college, and was a buyer of used and rare books, more than a few of which I ended up buying and keeping personally, I am an information junkie) We humans like to tell stories about ourselves that present us in a favorable light, and it is a very common tendency to rewrite popular history to make it look more glorious than the present.

We just havent evolved as far past our primate relatives as we would like to think we have. And although we decry our loss of "family values" we really have made HUGE leaps in our treatment of each other in the last century. And even that falls short of our fictions of ourselves.




posted on Mar, 28 2009 @ 11:43 PM
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reply to post by Illusionsaregrander
 

Interesting thought, this one of the things I beleive but is really a given, in the future they will look back on this time and say how really supid, and backward we were, if we make it that far?

We are fresh out of stone age, still pounding our chest.



posted on Mar, 29 2009 @ 01:33 AM
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" I got one foot in front & one behind you can have yours, just give me mine" ZZ Top "Just Got Paid"

[edit on 29-3-2009 by smokehouseslim]



posted on Mar, 29 2009 @ 01:55 AM
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reply to post by grimreaper797
 


I don't really wanna drag the nihilism argument up but I will say that if there is no god or afterlife and therefore selfish acts are pointless and meaningless then you can't conclude that selfless acts are meaningfull.

If nothing matters then everything we do should be planed and intended in a self centered manner. Since every experience we have is from our own perspective, no one else matters.

I can't really get the suicidal rational. If you come to the conclusion that your existence has no purpose, then shouldn't you, as opposed to ending your existence, is start being simply what you are? A human, a being with drives, instincts, desires, dreams etc. Just be what you are. The thing about there being no afterlife is that the here and now is the only thing that matters. You have an opportunity to work to make an enjoyable life - who cares if your life will amount to nothing 100 years after your death (you certainly won't be able to).

I exist therefore my life should have meaning? That IS a selfish mentality.

The problem with the ability to rationalise and philosophise as we do is that we run into disappointment and become disheartened. Why can't we just enjoy a good thing while it lasts? Do we need an excuse?

[edit on 29-3-2009 by Welfhard]



posted on Mar, 29 2009 @ 06:45 AM
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Originally posted by Welfhard
I don't really wanna drag the nihilism argument up but I will say that if there is no god or afterlife and therefore selfish acts are pointless and meaningless then you can't conclude that selfless acts are meaningfull.


I did not say that, perhaps you misinterpreted what I said. What I meant was that, if there is no god or afterlife, there is no possibility of an outside influence playing a part in your decision making.

The selfish acts are meaningless to certain people, not because there is no god or afterlife. Logic would conclude the opposite. They have no god or afterlife, so it would be most likely they would engage in just selfish acts. Why? To gain happiness, or material wealth. To gain for personal reasons.

But what if that stuff cannot possibly make you happy, or you believe you are incapable of obtaining it? If you can gain nothing for the selfish act, the act is meaningless.



If nothing matters then everything we do should be planed and intended in a self centered manner. Since every experience we have is from our own perspective, no one else matters.


Should. SHOULD be. That doesn't mean it is. In most cases, they would, and do, live in a self centered manner. But if you don't get anything out of those selfish endeavors, be it you are mentally broken, or emotionally broken, or what have you, then those selfish acts have 0 value.

It's not about other people mattering to you. Anyone who is that compelled and "caring" to such an extent about the person themselves is unlikely to be acting selflessly as they are getting something out of it.

The only way to be completely self-less, is to stop caring about yourself, and all the goals that have some sort of connection to self based acts.



I can't really get the suicidal rational. If you come to the conclusion that your existence has no purpose, then shouldn't you, as opposed to ending your existence, is start being simply what you are?


That IS what you are, by nature. You don't gain emotionally the way other people do. You don't gain mentally the same way.


A human, a being with drives, instincts, desires, dreams etc. Just be what you are. The thing about there being no afterlife is that the here and now is the only thing that matters. You have an opportunity to work to make an enjoyable life


Once you give up that idea that you can make an enjoyable life, that somehow that is the key to life or something, then you can live selflessly. If you are trying to live for personal enjoyment, you can't possibly be living selflessly, because by definition you are living for yourself.



- who cares if your life will amount to nothing 100 years after your death (you certainly won't be able to).


Has nothing to do with "what will my life amount to?" but the rational behind engaging in an act you deem pointless (that which no one gains from), and an act that has a point (an act that somebody gains from).

The idea is "I am here, I have 3 choices. Selfish acts, which nobody gains from because I do not gain from them, suicide, which nobody gains from, and selfless acts, which others gain from."
In order to have that mentality, you must have given up on the idea that you can gain from selfish acts.



I exist therefore my life should have meaning? That IS a selfish mentality.


I exist, so it is logical to make the choices that have value/gain behind them, as oppose to a choice with no value and nobody gains.



The problem with the ability to rationalise and philosophise as we do is that we run into disappointment and become disheartened. Why can't we just enjoy a good thing while it lasts? Do we need an excuse?


Because some people cannot enjoy a "good thing" at all. Its in their nature. Not everyone is a selfish being, just like not everyone can be a selfless being. It takes a certain nature to be one or the other.

You don't just wake up one day and go "I feel like being selfless." It comes from a conclusion that you come to when you have given up on the idea of being able to gain from selfish acts. Or deciding that your selfish acts don't have enough gain to continue doing them.



posted on Mar, 29 2009 @ 07:03 AM
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Originally posted by grimreaper797
Why? To gain happiness, or material wealth. To gain for personal reasons.

But what if that stuff cannot possibly make you happy, or you believe you are incapable of obtaining it? If you can gain nothing for the selfish act, the act is meaningless.


I want to make the point that people tend to do the things that [they think] will make them happy. Perhaps you act selfishly to get happy. Or perhaps acting in the interests of others, acting selflessly, you may get happy.

Either way personal fulfilment and the pursuit of happiness is why we act they way we do - thereby making even selfless acts selfish, if you gain from the benefit of others.

Thats one half of the story.

[edit on 29-3-2009 by Welfhard]



posted on Mar, 29 2009 @ 07:56 AM
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Originally posted by Illusionsaregrander
We humans like to tell stories about ourselves that present us in a favorable light...


I assume you are speaking for yourself. Sorry, unless you qualify that or replace the "We" with "Some," I must respectfully disagree Illusions.

If you want to witness sincere self-introspection or experience genuine, untainted exposure to the tragedy of the human condition, I invite you to sit in on a couple of 12-step program meetings. Brutal self-assessment via ego bypass. Rose colored glasses are checked at the door.

I promise you will encounter the raw, unadulterated essence of the frailty of human nature by those striving to eliminate self-denial and self-destructive behavior, it ain't pretty.

I suppose self-esteem is a potent commodity. Either too much or too little can be an equally dangerous thing. Vanity masquerading as self-esteem vs. low self-confidence.

Regards........KK


[edit on 29-3-2009 by kinda kurious]



posted on Mar, 29 2009 @ 08:19 AM
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Originally posted by kinda kurious
I assume you are speaking for yourself. Sorry, unless you qualify that or replace the "We" with "Some," I must respectfully disagree Illusions.


Sorry but it's part of human nature to embroider and embellish our testimony and there are numerous reasons for it. People who don't demonstrate this tendency are not typical.

[edit on 29-3-2009 by Welfhard]



posted on Mar, 29 2009 @ 08:48 AM
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Originally posted by Welfhard

Originally posted by kinda kurious
I assume you are speaking for yourself. Sorry, unless you qualify that or replace the "We" with "Some," I must respectfully disagree Illusions.

People who don't demonstrate this tendency are not typical.
[edit on 29-3-2009 by Welfhard]


While I am not attempting to argue with you, you seem to be making my point. I didn't realize this subject was limited to dealing with "normalcy."

When statements are made in broad strokes or all-inclusive generalizations are made, it tends to dilute the logic. Perhaps it is a "figure of speech" or a "figment of my imagination."

Regardless, I am happy I'm not "typical."

I'd like to think I'm unique, just like everybody else.


I was merely pointing out, that for some, feeling good about ones self is not as easy as for others. I do agree that "most" people make inflated embellishments regarding their altruism or self-worth. Just not some.

As you were, please carry on.

Regards....KK



[edit on 29-3-2009 by kinda kurious]



posted on Mar, 29 2009 @ 09:01 AM
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reply to post by kinda kurious
 


Well it's just that you said:

I assume you are speaking for yourself. Sorry, unless you qualify that or replace the "We" with "Some," I must respectfully disagree Illusions.


It's a rule of thumb that people act this way that rarely ever doesn't apply, so (s)he said 'we' fairly appropriately. I'm like this all the time.


I dunno, maybe I'm getting way to pedantic about this ...

... or maybe not enough. [looks thoughtful]

[edit on 29-3-2009 by Welfhard]



posted on Mar, 29 2009 @ 09:46 AM
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Originally posted by Welfhard
I want to make the point that people tend to do the things that [they think] will make them happy. Perhaps you act selfishly to get happy. Or perhaps acting in the interests of others, acting selflessly, you may get happy.

Either way personal fulfilment and the pursuit of happiness is why we act they way we do - thereby making even selfless acts selfish, if you gain from the benefit of others.

Thats one half of the story.

[edit on 29-3-2009 by Welfhard]


You aren't listening. You keep referring to doing the deeds to make yourself happy. That is not the case. I am saying if you are incapable of being happy, regardless of what you do, and you give up on the possibility of being happy, then you start acting selfless.

If you give up the idea of being happy, the idea of love, and any desire to be remembered or cherished, you will either die, or act selflessly.

You aren't doing the selfish acts because they make you happy, or they are pleasurable. You are doing them because it is the only choice that is not literally pointless. By pointless I don't mean believing your life has meaning, by pointless I mean somebody gains from the action.

If I can gain nothing from selfish acts, I gain little to nothing except escape from suicide, and I gain nothing from acting selflessly, in all three scenarios, I gain nothing. I gain no happiness, I gain no love, I gain nothing.

So, logic tells me, the only action that has any point (otherwise known as overall gain. Who gains, and what do they gain from it.), is the selfless act. The first two have a sum of 0 gain. The selfless act has a party which gains from it. Reason tells us that we do the selfless act then, as that is the most logical choice.

You don't gain anything from it. If anything, you lose more and more, the more you engage in it. If you do it for any other reason than its logical, it becomes a partially selfish act. If you do it out of "love" for the other people, you are doing it based on your self based lifestyle of love.

Selflessness has nothing to do with honor, or love, or remembrance. All it is, is taking yourself out of the equation of acting, and inserting logic.

Selfless Sacrifice is completely different. To give up your self based lifestyle, knowing you will never get it back, is selfless, because not only are you no longer living a self based lifestyle, you are willingly giving it up.

To lose everything with the understanding you will gain nothing, and to do it anyway, that is selfless sacrifice. If you have nothing to sacrifice, and nothing to gain, as listed earlier, then you are merely selfless.



posted on Mar, 29 2009 @ 09:56 AM
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Originally posted by grimreaper797
You aren't listening. You keep referring to doing the deeds to make yourself happy. That is not the case. I am saying if you are incapable of being happy, regardless of what you do, and you give up on the possibility of being happy, then you start acting selfless.


Ah I see what you're saying now, someone who is incapable of happiness is effectively unable to recieve the benefit of selfish acts (selfish selfless act incl. I'm guessing). Sorry, I'm very tired - it's 4am here.


If I can gain nothing from selfish acts, I gain little to nothing except escape from suicide, and I gain nothing from acting selflessly, in all three scenarios, I gain nothing. I gain no happiness, I gain no love, I gain nothing.

So, logic tells me, the only action that has any point (otherwise known as overall gain. Who gains, and what do they gain from it.), is the selfless act.


But if you can't benefit happiness from anything you do, there is no reason to care whether or not other people do. There is no reason to care about "gain". Logic tells me that at this stage that gain and happiness have no perceived value relative to the individual, therefore there is no motivation to act selflessly.

But along with that, there is also no motivation act selfishly, with is a bit of a dilemma. You'd probably just end up acting aimlessly.

However these are special circumstances. Someone who can't feel happiness is fundamentally broken.

[edit on 29-3-2009 by Welfhard]



posted on Mar, 29 2009 @ 09:57 AM
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Originally posted by Welfhard
It's a rule of thumb that people act this way that rarely ever doesn't apply, so (s)he said 'we' fairly appropriately. I'm like this all the time.


I think you are making it too personal. Putting your personal experience into play too much. Human beings follow a bell curve for most personality traits. The more extreme you get, the more different the trait will be from normal. So yes, the more extreme you go, the more rare it will become, but We is NOT fairly used, as a statistical percentage would no have that rule of thumb apply.

We humans, means every last one. We humans have a heart. We humans have a brain. We humans do not all tell stories of ourselves in favorable light. Some people do that exact opposite. Is it the norm? No. Is it rare? Maybe. But "We humans" means all, which was inaccurate.



posted on Mar, 29 2009 @ 10:01 AM
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reply to post by grimreaper797
 


Alright fine, I take it back, jezz. It was just a general statement.

[edit on 29-3-2009 by Welfhard]



posted on Mar, 29 2009 @ 10:13 AM
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Originally posted by Welfhard
But if you can't benefit happiness from anything you do, there is no reason to care whether or not other people do. There is no reason to care about "gain". Logic tells me that at this stage that gain and happiness have no perceived value relative to the individual, therefore there is no motivation to act selflessly.


That is the entire point I made in my original post.

If you care, then you aren't acting selflessly. If you care about whether or not the act was selfless, the act isn't selfless. You care, therefore it mattered to you. It would only matter to YOU if YOU gain from it. The only reason it would even cross your mind is if you wanted to analyze the situation to see how you can act more efficiently next time. "I did this, but I didn't do it very well. How do I change that so that others gain more from this act."

You don't care about the people themselves. You just follow the logical choice, that which has point, as oppose to the choice that has no point. You analyze that logic so that next time you can approach the situation with superior logic than you had last time.

Selflessness is a void of caring. Selfless sacrifice is caring MORE than you care about the selfish acts you involve yourself with.

For instance:
Selflessness-"I do not love, I am not happy, I have no reason to act out of personal gain. I will do for others, because nothing else I do has a logical reason behind it, since there would be no gain from the acts."
Selfless Sacrifice- "I love, I am happy, I love my job, but logic tells me the gain of giving all that up for others greatly outweighs the gain of continuing my selfish acts. "
Such a situation would be, you have a job, a loving family, and a great deal of money. You give all that up, and die, with no expectation of a reward via afterlife, to save a bus full of school children.

You gave it all up, not because some instinct, or love for people, or because you even care. You gave it all up because the gain from choosing them, was logically greater than the gain from you not doing it.

There was nothing emotional about the choice. No parental instinct. Just the logical conclusion that saving all those kids would have more value.

This value is easy to see when your selfish acts have a sum value of 0, and the selfless acts don't. When both the selfless choice, and the selfish choice, have value, it becomes a dilemma that you must weigh. You can't always be certain of your decision, and why you made it, but the dilemma remains.

Do you give up all your self based lifestyle for nothing in return, or keep it, and let the children die? If you are an emotional person, who immediately resorts to gut instincts and is not a person based on thinking and logic, chances are, you will never act selflessly. There will always be some connection back to you, thus making it selfish.

If you are running off YOUR emotions, YOUR instincts, and YOUR experience, then it is no wonder your act is going to be SELF based. Logic has nothing to do with YOU. One act is logical, the other illogical. There is no emotion about it. No gut instinct about it. Something is either logical or it isn't. If you are basing something on logic, the only part of YOU coming into play is your ability to logically reason. Your ability to logically reason doesn't make the act any less selfless, it just limits the effectiveness at which you act selflessly.



posted on Mar, 29 2009 @ 10:16 AM
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Originally posted by Welfhard
Alright fine, I take it back, jezz. It was just a general statement.


You don't have to "take it back." I'm not attacking you or bashing you for saying it. I'm just debating the point you made. My point was general statements are generally wrong, and explained why I feel that way. That is all.



posted on Mar, 29 2009 @ 01:21 PM
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Originally posted by kinda kurious

I assume you are speaking for yourself. Sorry, unless you qualify that or replace the "We" with "Some," I must respectfully disagree Illusions.


I am sorry if I offended you with that comment. It wasnt meant to either offend, not be absolutely inclusive.

It was a customary use of the words "we" and "humans" as a collective. Not meant to be taken as "all humans without exception."

"Humans are violent" or "humans are intelligent" or "humans can hear" or "humans can walk upright" are also generalizations that are customary to use, but obviously are not universally true.

Though, while people in 12 step programs may be brutally honest in that moment of their life, that honesty is not descriptive of their entire life. Drugs and alcohol are actually some of the ways we lie to and about ourselves. ("look at me! I am happy and fun and the life of the party! Whee!" when in fact we are insecure or unhappy in truth and are masking that with a chemical high) So they engaged in repackaging at some point. And likely they will do so again as soon as they leave the meeting, blending in quietly, covering up the pain they laid bare hours ago to those they felt safe exposing themselves to.

There are exceptions to that statement. I readily admit that. There are those who would sit and walk naked among the rest of us, hiding nothing, enhancing nothing, raw and open to the world.

The rest of us hide our flaws, wear flattering clothing, get nose jobs, wear makeup, dye our hair, pad our bras, engage in polite conversation with people when we really want to yell at them, say "I dont mind" when someone asks a favor, etc. Wear business suits cut to make our shoulders look broad and strong and get hair transplants or shave our heads to conceal our thinning hair. Post pictures of ourselves on the internet taken years ago in favorable light at a favorable angle, you know what I am getting at here. In short we re-package the essence or truth of who we are to make us look more acceptable to others. (And often ourselves as well)

Obviously there are those who try to write history as raw and unadorned as possible as well. But those raw histories rarely make it into the collective general body of understanding, known as "common knowledge," if they are about "us," though we often dont mind brutal honesty about "others," we can say what jerks Nazis were, because we are not Nazis. We dont like to hear about our own flaws, (either individually or collectively as a people) because they are uncomfortable truths. (or near truths, I think "truth" is the like mathematical concept of "zero" where you can get ever closer to it, but you never actually reach it) We believe what we want to believe, much of the time. ("We" again including any applicable exceptions) And it has been that way as long as there have been writers to comment on it.

Demosthenes (384 BC - 322 BC)

"The easiest thing of all is to deceive one's self; for what a man wishes he generally believes to be true."



posted on Mar, 29 2009 @ 01:37 PM
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Originally posted by grimreaper797

For instance:
Selflessness-"I do not love, I am not happy, I have no reason to act out of personal gain. I will do for others, because nothing else I do has a logical reason behind it, since there would be no gain from the acts."
Selfless Sacrifice- "I love, I am happy, I love my job, but logic tells me the gain of giving all that up for others greatly outweighs the gain of continuing my selfish acts. "
Such a situation would be, you have a job, a loving family, and a great deal of money. You give all that up, and die, with no expectation of a reward via afterlife, to save a bus full of school children.

You gave it all up, not because some instinct, or love for people, or because you even care. You gave it all up because the gain from choosing them, was logically greater than the gain from you not doing it.

There was nothing emotional about the choice. No parental instinct. Just the logical conclusion that saving all those kids would have more value.


I dont mean to butt in here, but I have been taking in your argument and it just so happens to correspond to something I am reading right now. A book called "Why we Decide."

What you are describing here, this way of reasoning, is not how most people do decide. I am not sure if any of your argument in auto-biographical, but what you are describing is someone using their pre-frontal cortex almost exclusively for decision making, when in fact this is not how the majority of people DO decide, nor is using the pre-frontal cortex, (reasoning) the optimal method for making decisions that favor your happiness.

You are right when you say, "there is nothing emotional about the choice.." your reasoning is devoid of emotion, and yet your "character" this person you describe, can find no pleasure in "selfish or selfless" acts. Well, there is a reason for this, that should be fairly obvious, (but it wasnt to me either until I read the book.)

Happiness, and pleasure, are emotional reactions. The reason that decisions made solely by the pre-frontal cortex rarely lead to "happiness" is that you never factored your emotions into the equation. Emotional decisions result in emotional conclusions. Rational decisions result in rational conclusions. Most people lean towards emotional decision making, not rational decision making. If you are a rational decision maker, you need to make it part of your rational process to consider your emotional response to your choices. In short, to be more selfish. If you "dont want to" but reason that you should, try not doing what you should some of the time. If you want to but know you shouldnt, try doing what you shouldnt some of the time.

It is an interesting book, and engagingly written, and since you are writing what you are, I would guess you would find it very interesting.

kottke.org...


From the acclaimed author of Proust Was a Neuroscientist, a fascinating look at the new science of decision-making-and how it can help us make better choices. Since Plato, philosophers have described the decisionmaking process as either rational or emotional: we carefully deliberate or we "blink" and go with our gut. But as scientists break open the mind's black box with the latest tools of neuroscience, they're discovering that this is not how the mind works.Our best decisions are a finely tuned blend of both feeling and reason -- and the precise mix depends on the situation.When buying a house, for example, it's best to let our unconscious mull over the many variables. But when we're picking a stock, intuition often leads us astray.The trick is to determine when to lean on which part of the brain, and to do this, we need to think harder (and smarter) about how we think.



posted on Mar, 29 2009 @ 01:40 PM
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Everything you do is mearly a light unto anothers path. You may make a choice and suffer or make others suffer, but in that suffering is a wonderfull lesson to those with ears to hear and eyes to see. Your every action is selfless to the future... your life is a living guide to those who come after you to improve upon your failures. Everything you do is selfish ,everything you do is selfless....

[edit on 29-3-2009 by Wertdagf]



posted on Mar, 29 2009 @ 03:53 PM
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reply to post by Illusionsaregrander
 


Absolutely no offense taken. I had concluded in a subsequent post that it was probably a "figure of speech." I took it too literal. It is just one of those "trigger" buttons for me when people speak in absolutes. But you know me, I got issues.

I enjoyed the benefit of your reply.

Kind Regards........KK

[edit on 29-3-2009 by kinda kurious]



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